Sunday, May 6, 2012

Men as Partners

Yesterday I wrapped up my Men as Partners workshop.  Men as Partners (MAP) is an approach to teach gender equity through a series of activities that engages the participants in debates, games, etc.

I've been using this approach to talk about gender equity on a small scale to the local Imams (muslim leaders).  They have really appreciated the tiny 8 person workshops, and I was happy doing it on a small scale.  But, back in February, I was approached by the founder of Luciol'Envol ( to see what kind of partnership Peace Corps volunteers in Tchamba could form with their organization.  Luciol'Envol is a pretty amazing association.  It was founded by a man who was born in Tchamba, went all the way to university in Togo, and is now working at CDG airport.  Every year he provides scholarships for 50 tchamba girls to attend school in honor of his mother, who he says is the reason why he was able to go so far in his studies.

I talked about my work with the Imams, which got everyone in the association interested. Together, we thought of a Men as Partners training for the chiefs of each of the neighborhoods in my village, the CVDs (the person in each neighborhood in charge of community-development), and the woman responsible for women in each neighborhood.  All together we had about 50 participants.

The day started early with an opening ceremony, followed by sessions on defining gender vs. sex, gender roles, HIV/AIDS, breaking gender stereotypes in households in regards to chores, work, and education, and finally a session on the meaning of family and what it means to take care of family.

The whole day was in local language (tchamba).  I can really see a huge difference in a training that is held in local language vs. a training that is held in French.  French is rarely someone's first language here, so a lot is lost varying from each participant and how much french they know.  By having the training in local language, it really provides for a better comprehension, more participation, and more fun as people are comfortable making jokes in their native language.

Our Training of Trainers: 5 trainers 'examining their attitudes' through debates. 

Opening ceremony with the village authorities.  Can you imagine having a workshop in America and having the mayor, his council, religious leaders, and education officials all coming?

Talking about the difference between sex and gender.

Discussing gender stereotypes in Togo.

Yay! At the end of the day, everyone got their certificate.  (If you don't give a certificate here, it's like the workshop wasn't official)
Me with the trainers that led the sessions during the workshop! (People were so surprised I opted out of printing a certificate for myself...)

24 years old..

I celebrated my second birthday in Togo this past April 25th.  To celebrate, I decided I wanted to throw a party for me and my neighbors.   I’ve never really invited any of my neighbors over to eat a meal with me, so I decided this would be the best time and way to do it.

I got my party planner and best girlfriend in Tchamba to help me out with all of it.  Together we sat down and planned a meal for 40 people.  The meal entailed a salad (cabbage and hot dogs), followed by couscous with wagash (cheese from fulanis, a nomadic tribe), two chickens, one of them being my pet chicken (his name was garbanzo), and sodas for everyone.  I also baked about 4 loaves of banana bread to have as my cake.

Some of my neighbors.  I promise, they were more excited than this pictures lets on.

Some of the kiddos in the neighborhood.
Lyle and Christa happened to be swinging through Tchamba on their way back from Benin so we all got to party together!

The closest people I have in village to a host mom and dad (since I don't live with a host family).
The chicken was in a seperate bowl from the couscous.  I kept wondering when Angel was going to pass it out, but she never did.  Finally we sang happy birthday and cut the cake.  After everyone got their cakes, Angel passed out the chicken (the real dessert). Everyone eats meat last here, even when there is cake.

Angel and me wearing the necklace she gave me for my birthday!

People actually gave me presents! I was SUPER shocked since most people don't have money to just buy whatever, whenever.  I got a ton of cookies, dates, a porcelain bowl (left of the photo), a wheel of wagash (cheese), the necklace from Angel, and a new pair of flip flops!

The party was a super success and I really loved having everyone over.  Everyone sang happy birthday, in both English and French, ate a ton, and ended up having a little dance party at the end.  I can't believe I'll be leaving this neighborhood soon! This is the first time in my life I have 1) lived alone and 2) actually been really good friends with all of my neighbors.  It's relationships like these that are hard to find in America, and I'm really lucky to have found them here.